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Film review: Say It Isn't So!

Believe it or not, there was a lot more to "There's Something About Mary" besides vulgar sex jokes, goofy hairdos and animal high jinks.

There was also a certain appeal — if not an outright charming quality — to the characters, as well as a surprising amount of sweetness to offset all the crudity and low-brow antics, both of which may have helped account for the film's nearly universal appeal.

Unfortunately, that lesson seems to have been lost on the hordes of filmmakers who have tried to duplicate that movie's success, which includes "Say It Isn't So!", one of the most mean-spirited and least appealing of the many "Mary" copycats.

Even odder is the fact that "Mary's" co-creators, the Farrelly brothers, are at least partly to blame for this often painfully strained farce, which has only a couple of laugh-out-loud sequences and even fewer that can spark even a smile or chuckle.

After all, they produced this clinker and handpicked the director, J.B. Rogers, who served as assistant director on all four of their films. But suffice it to say, his instincts for finding the humor in a particular situation aren't nearly as good as those of his mentors, and the film suffers for it.

And then there's his dubious choice for the lead role, the only sporadically amusing Chris Klein, who's made a career of playing rather dopey characters. Here he stars as Gilly Noble, an Indiana animal-control officer who thinks he's finally found the right woman.

That would be beautiful hairdresser Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham), who's come back from Oregon to take care of her ailing father (Richard Jenkins). The two twentysomethings hit it off immediately — so much so that, within six months, Gilly is already thinking about proposing to her.

There's an unexpected problem, though. According to information obtained by a private detective, the two are actually brother and sister, which nips the relationship in the bud immediately.

Distraught, Jo heads back to Oregon, while the heartbroken Gilly moves in with his new "family." However, when Jo's real brother (Jack Plotnick) suddenly pops up, Gilly realizes there's been a mistake, and hits the road to reunite with the woman of his dreams.

Not too surprisingly, there are obstacles standing in their way, not the least of which are Jo's avaricious mother (Sally Field) and Jo's new fiance (Eddie Cibrian), who's not about to let Gilly wreck anything.

Rogers and his cast might have been able to do something with this premise — that is, if screenwriters Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow didn't stoop so low in their attempts for laughs.

Among the more politically incorrect (and least successful) bits are the pseudo-incest subplot and jokes about stroke victims, while pop-culture references to "Apocalypse Now" and "Deliverance" will probably go over the heads of the target audience.

Throw in bland performances by Klein and Graham — and Field's irritatingly over-the-top turn — and you've got a formula for disaster. (In fact, the only person who really registers is Orlando Jones, playing the handicapped pilot who aids Gilly.)

"Say It Isn't So!" is rated R for an onslaught of crude humor (mostly sexual gags), frequent strong profanity, simulated sex acts (done mostly for laughs), brief female nudity and brief simulated drug use (marijuana, which is eaten). Running time: 93 minutes.